New Study Estimates 4 Million Deaths from Household Cooking Smoke Each Year

Previously Known Mortality Doubles From 2 To 4 Million Worldwide; Health And Environmental Risks High In Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa

Washington, D.C.

December 13, 2012


Alexis Krieg

Household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels kills 4 million people annually, according to new global burden of disease estimatespublished in The Lancet today.

Millions more are sickened from lung cancer and disease, child lower respiratory infections, cardiovascular disease, and cataracts associated with household air pollution (HAP).  The results demonstrate the continued impact of HAP on child survival and life-expectancy, and underscore the link between HAP and noncommunicable diseases.

The burden of disease from dozens of leading public health risk factors, including high blood pressure, tobacco, alcohol use, and nutritional factors, were also updated in the study.

Each day, around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and inefficient stoves that burn solid fuels such as wood, animal dung, agricultural residues, charcoal, and coal.   As a result, 3.5 million deaths are directly associated with HAP each year.  In addition, another 500,000 deaths from outdoor air pollution caused by cooking, with a large share of outdoor pollution in regions like Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa originating from household solid fuel use.

The HAP findings add increased urgency to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’ mission to save and improve lives through the creation of a market for clean, safe, and efficient household cooking solutions.

“This shocking doubling of previous estimates of HAP-related mortality necessitates a redoubling of Alliance efforts to ensure that cooking a meal is a life-enriching, and not life-taking, activity for all people,” said Alliance Executive Director Radha Muthiah, referring to the previous estimate of 2 million annual deaths from HAP (WHO 2009). “The Alliance will accelerate its work to increase the accessibility, affordability, and eventual adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels at scale, informed by rigorous in-country collaboration with our partners and consultation with users and consumers.

“These results provide further momentum to our mission to ensure that cooking doesn’t kill,” added Muthiah.

The ‘Global Burden of Disease 2010’ study represents the work of 486 co-authors from 50 countries, an effort led by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“One of the most alarming findings is that smoke from cooking fires was found to be the largest environmental threat to health in the world today,” said Kirk R. Smith, a professor of global environmental health at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-author of The Lancet article.

An expert panel will discuss the study’s HAP findings at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Monday, December 17, from 11:00am-1:00pm EST.


About the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves:

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves is a public-private partnership led by the United Nations Foundation to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment by creating a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions. The Alliance’s 100 by ‘20 goal calls for 100 million households to adopt clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels by 2020. The Alliance is working with its public, private and non-profit partners to help overcome the market barriers that currently impede the production, deployment, and use of clean cookstoves in developing countries. For more information, please visit